Great Ocean Road Trip
"Great Ocean Road"
This section of coastline is an arid, desert like area along the South Western coastline of Victoria, Australia. It is one of Australia's most fearsome & ruggard coastlines which contributes to it's enchanting & somewhat different beauty.
There is a great deal of history here regarding ships & the colonising of Australia as well as amazing geographical features. The two marry together very well painting a wonderful & sometimes harsh picture of how beautiful yet unrelenting Australia can be.
The coastline is dotted with pretty towns, some of the larger ones are a little commercialised in my opinion however, still lovely. If you get the opportunity & the season & your budget is correct I would highly recommend stopping in Apollo Bay for lobster. (it cost us $55 for half a lobster - was yum to try the once - wouldn't want to make it a regular occurance).
Some highlights for us included:
- Otway National Park
- Anglesea (there is a lighthouse here you can walk up to that was actually used in a TV series based on the Childrens books by Paul Jennings)
- Appollo Bay (lunch - lobster! yum)
- Twelve Apostles
- Bay of Matyrs
We had the opportunity to visit this area in the height of Summer, the heat was extreme (even for us Australians) & of course bought with it masses of bush flies. I would recommend seeing this area in Spring-Late Spring or Early Autumn when the temperatures are not as harsh. It can be extremely cold & windy in Winter, which can also contributes to poor visability of the amazing coastline. Wear comfortable footwear, sunscreen (even on the overcast & cooler days), take lots of drinking water & due to the unpredictable weather all times of year a spray jacket (wind jacket). The bright side of taking our trip in the height of Summer was the daylight savings meaning it is light until about 8pm or even later sometimes which gives you so much more time to see things.
To see this area effectively you will need about 3 days. We went by car however there are tours that run along this area. It is really a personal preference as to which option you would like to take. If you can hire a car I would probably do this as you can stop & start wherever & whenever you like. There are lots of small spots to stop off at, most of these have short walks that take about 15-20mins to do. As previously said, the weather can be somewhat unpredicatble so if you allow the time it should give the opportunity to view the area from several perspectives weather wise.
Book accommodation well in advance, especially in the high season, it can be difficult to obtain. There are a couple of backpacker hostels, as well as tons of caravan parks & motel/hotel like accomodation all with varying prices. We managed to chance upon a deer park with cabins from about $100 per night about a 15 minute drive to the Twelve Apostles. They were by no means luxurious, I would however stay here time & time again. This probably more due to the cabin's uniquness as the one we stayed in was actually a refurbished TRAM! I would recommend asking for a discount if you stay more than 2 nights - you never know, the gentleman renting them out was very nice.
HALLS GAP NATIONAL PARK
When we stayed here it was very very hot (40C +). Too hot to do any of the walks safely, we stayed at a Caravan Park with swimming pool & there was mini golf not far down the road, there isn't much to do here unless you can do the bush walks. It is definately a nice spot to stop & chill out for a couple of days with a good book. Otherwise, well suited to family holidays or retirees. The Caravan Park was nice with good amenities & well equipped camp kitchen. It had a large grassy area for children to play in as well as a playground, being school holidays I believe they even had some extra childrens activities happening. In the evening & early morning there are also wallabies & bird about which are nice to watch.
The countryside is quite harsh - bushranger like (although the bushrangers are long gone now). I would recommend staying here in Autumn & Spring also, when you can actually see the area without the harsh weather conditions.
Two words - NED KELLY. This is the town that belongs to the downfall of the infamous NED KELLY, who was one of Australia's most notorious bushrangers. You only need about an hour to stop off here & view the museum & replica of the Ned Kelly Homestead. The museum has the story of Ned Kelly's life & for those who are nostalgic you can even pick up you own little piece of Bushranger History in form of a souvineer at the little shop that runs the museum. A great little piece of true Australian History.
I loved this little town in the mountains. It is at it's peak in the high of the ski season in Winter. We got to stay in Summer though & to see the area so green & beautiful! The township of Beechworth is not very big but has some interesting history from the colonial days & a great bakery & old time lolly store. It was nice to have a wander down the main street & duck in and out of the few Antique/Collectable stores. The best sort of accommodation here would be to stay at a Cabin in the Caravan Park. As we only in Beechworth one night we stayed in one of the Motels which was very reasonably priced & comfortable. Can't wait to go back here & see it in Winter.
"Penguins & The Nobbies, Phillip Island, Victoria"
From Melbourne we went for a day trip on a tour bus down to Phillip Island, home of the fairy penguins. I would recommend taking this as day tour as the penguins don't come out until it's basically dark, which would make it a very late night to drive all the way back to Melbourne, although you could stay on Phillip Island if you chose to. I would warn you to definately take lots of water, sunscreen, hat, comfortable walking shoes & also a jumper/jacket as the wind coming from the South is cold especially after the sun sets.
On the tour we covered some wine tasting, a small Australian Zoo, The Nobbies/Seal Rocks & the Penguins. The highlights for me being Australian were more the Nobbies & the Penguins.
The Nobbies gives you the opportunity to wander around boardwalks along the edge of the Island & view the awesome geographical features as well as take a sneak peak at the little penguins in there nests. If you are here at the right time of year (which we weren't unfortunately) you will also be able to see a large seal colony as well. The tour companies can genrally advise when the best time of year to see the seals. There is also an information centre here that provides all sorts of information about the wildlife on the land & in the sea for the area. Or if you are all informed there is a great spot to sit & have a coffee.
After that, you head around to the penguin parade, which is a viewing area & information centre. Take the time to grab a coffee/ hot chocolate & head down to the viewing area to sit & watch the penguins make their way in. The viewing area is a series of large concrete steps which are quite hard to sit on for the hour or more. You can hire a cushion for about $2 alternatively if you can take your own.
They are very shy & will spend a great deal of time coming out of the ocean, they cautiously make their way out of the water & in an instant will turn & dive straight back in until the coast is clear & they believe they can make it across the beach safetly. This can take some time so be patient they are worth the wait. Once they've made their way across the beach & onto the headland you can wander from the viewing platform along the boardwalks & spot them amongst the grass & bushes. You can here them calling to eachother as they make their way to their nests. There were literally hundreds of them when we went & they were sooooo cute.
IMPORTANT: The guides will ask you not to take photo's as the flashes of your camera will dazzle & confuse the penguins. Please heed this warning as there is plenty of opportunity to purchase photo's or postcards & souviners of the Penguins in the gift shop. This isn't just a commercial warning to make you buy something at the gift shop, as one tourist took a photo of a Penguin when I was there & you could see it definately became disorientated. The other thing is - if you take photo's & are caught the guides can/will confiscate you camera until the end of the evening when you can get it back.
One last thing - & I think it's the best little sign in Australia LOL - there are signs around the place determining to check under your vehicle for penguins. Do this - our tour bus actually had to stop & give way to a few.